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How to mitigate spiralling costs in a multiplatform client ecosystem?

April 4 — 2024

Pascal Hamel
Partner, Vice-President ⏤ Software Development

In today's digital age, consumers demand seamless access to their favourite content across an array of platforms—from TVs and mobile devices to laptops and gaming consoles. This ever-growing expectation presents a formidable challenge for media companies: ensuring omnipresence on all platforms while judiciously managing costs. While this is a challenge especially acute in the media industry, most B2C companies also face the challenge of meeting their consumers on the platform of their choice, at the time of their choice. Most companies have embraced the challenge, but find themselves having trouble maintaining and evolving their applications portfolio while still keeping the budget balanced. Even if there is no silver bullet to solve this challenge, here are a few elements that should be considered to bring the situation back under control.

Streamlining endpoints support

The first thing to consider is a fairly obvious one, but one that seems to be frowned upon or simply forgotten by lots of executives. On a regular basis, you should ask yourself if you can deprecate or retire less used endpoints from your ecosystem. That can be done by removing support for a platform that does not have a significant user base, or by raising the floor on supported OS versions. In any case, you should try to have an acceptable fallback for those affected by the change. Having a strong Web responsive version will usually do the trick, and cater to those on more niche or older devices.

“Perfection is reached not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.”

⏤ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Simplifying your products

All sorts of reasons can explain why an application becomes more complex than it probably should. Maybe we needed to integrate multiple legacy systems. We might have had complex business processes that were replicated as business rules in our applications. Other times, a feature that seemed to make sense at one point just never got traction and does not justify a continued investment in maintenance. In any case, we should be constantly looking for ways to reduce complexity. Having strong analytics in a product is a good way to identify less-used features that might be eliminated. Having a solid test suite can reduce the risk in doing this kind of housekeeping. However, even products lacking in proper test and analytics suites need to be simplified, and sometimes, we just have to use whatever data and gut feeling we have to make a decision on what can be taken out. Ideally, this can be done in a revertable manner, so we can reverse course if we end up breaking something or removing something that was too important to our users.

Leveraging key members of our user base

In order to reduce risk and alleviate the need to invest tons of money in quality assurance, having a significant beta track is extremely useful. Some users love to be exposed early to new features and will gladly use something that is not quite there yet if they feel their feedback is valued. Sometimes, for larger companies, it is as simple as having all our team members part of this beta track as users. Implementing a beta track encourages a culture of smaller, more frequent updates. These updates are not only cheaper to debug but also carry a lower risk of causing disruptions. The tooling to support beta tracks is built-in in Apple and Android platforms, and makes it very straightforward to implement. Although it will come at a price to manage the beta feedback and identify what should be addressed, it should be significantly less than operating a large scale quality assurance team. It will have the added benefit of providing feedback on the actual product, its usability and its functionality. As a collateral benefit, the beta program might even foster stronger user engagement by rewarding the contribution of power users.

Apple TestFlight

TestFlight makes it easy to invite users to test your apps and App Clips and collect valuable feedback before releasing your apps on the App Store. You can invite up to 10,000 testers using just their email address or by sharing a public link.

Balancing investment and tackling (tech) debt

Effectively managing costs does require an investment, specifically in the ongoing management of technical debt. We all want to keep tech debt at a minimum, but this pious intention gets thrown out of the window as soon as we have a tight budget or deadlines to release new features (which ends up being most of the time). There’s a double whammy effect happening here when snoozing on tech debt control: the less we do it, the more complex it becomes to tackle. Development teams need to make it part of their work to make improvements, even when deadlines are tight. Luka Klaradic has a great way of calling this kind of work sustainability work. This work is most probably necessary for the future of your applications, and overlooking it will only make things more complicated and expensive in the future.

Your organisation might be struggling with spiralling costs right now. But there are ways to make it better, even if it will not happen overnight nor be an easy endeavour. But by eliminating lesser used endpoints, by simplifying ruthlessly, by building a beta track and by investing in software sustainability, there are ways to regain control on your costs. Those initiatives will have the added benefit of raising the quality of your digital ecosystem and the user experience. So let’s stop seeing the uphill battle ahead of us, and let’s put things in motion to reign in those costs.


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